Spec Theatre Presents: Artisanal Intelligence

Written by ira cooper

Performed by Hannah Everett and Drew Carlson

Directed by Bronwen Marsden

Did you know without goats, the coffee bean may have never been discovered? Can you tell the difference between the three types of beer from a smell test? Are you able to recognize if the vinyl you hear coming from your neighbour’s apartment is a 78, 45 or 33? Do you use a spy glass instead of binoculars when you travel? Do you type your university essay on a typewriter? Did you build your bicycle from scratch?

Barry knows. Barry can. Barry does and Barry did.

Artisanal Intelligence is proud to introduce the next wave in A.I. customer service: Barry – perfect fit for all your too-cool for school business needs!

Can you tell the difference between three types of beer from a smell test? Do you type your university essays out on a typewriter? Have you ever claimed that you are ninth generation direct descendent of the inventor of the bicycle?

Barry can, Barry would and Barry has.

Artisanal Intelligence is proud to introduce the next wave in A.I. customer service : Barry – the perfect fit for all your too-cool for school business needs!

Artisanal Intelligence is proud to introduce the next wave in A.I. customer service: Barry – perfect fit for all your too-cool for school business needs!


Jane (Hannah Everett)

The entrepreneur and creative genius responsible for developing
Barry -a snazzy A.I. customer service robot. Jane has put her heart
and soul into her revolutionary creation and truly believes that life is
exponentially better with a Barry in it.

Barry (Drew Carlson)

A fast learning, curious and very responsive Artificial Intelligence
Robot, Barry is so real and impeccably orchestrated “fashion wise”
that you would never know she was made of recycled parts, PVC
piping, and high grade silicon. Barry hopes to sell like vegan, gluten free
hotcakes and help eclectic, underground, and unique businesses
grow to the edges of their niche potential.


Running time:  45 minutes

Genre:  Comedy/Drama / Variety / Musical Theatre

Rating:  Mature Content (Age 14+, Audience Participation – talks directly to audience! Adult Language)

Writer’s Statement

I started writing Artisanal Intelligence forever ago (2 years ago). Long story, I’m in China, teaching English in a Canadian high school in a city of four million. A city of four million that you’ve never even heard of before. And even with four million people, I isolated myself on weekends in my second floor apartment, gardening, drinking homemade rice wine and writing this play about robots and hipsters.  And yet, this play is not simply a form of absurdist, comedic, low brow escapism as it may come across. It’s a conversation about identity, as most things are, and its tumultuous relationship with self versus societal box fitting. I exist in a generation full of tickle trunks and hushed fetishes. We spend a few weekends a year letting go, like who we are is the helium of life in our balloons of existence, so we have to be careful of letting off too much. And that saddens me a bit. There are other dialogues too; questions raised about creation versus intent versus audience response and who gets to create meaning. It’s also an affirmation of what love can be. It’s all of those things,  as well as all the stuff you see

Cast and Crew Biographies

Hannah Everett (Jane)

Hannah is a graduate of the University of British Columbia Acting program. Most recent theatre credits include: GOLDRAUSCH, Much Ado About Nothing, Tuesdays and Sundays, She Kills MonstersGreat Slave Lake, Hotel Amore, Hot L Baltimore, Edward II (UBC), The Vagina Monologues (UBC VDAY), Les Belles Soeurs (Sidekick Player’s Club), A Shakesperience, and Shakespeare Unhinged (Riotous Youth). She interned with the Riotous Youth program with Bard on the Beach for three years, participated in the InTune Young Company with Touchstone, and has also trained with the Stratford Theatre Performance Intensive. This will be her second time travelling across Canada, and she looking forward to creating new memories to replace the ones of her road-tripping in the backseat of her parents’ car with the dog throwing up. She is thrilled to be collaborating on this project with Drew, her fellow graduate, and many thanks to Bronwen, Ira, and Ruby for supplying her with her first show out of school. 

Drew Carlson (Barry)

Drew is a recent BFA Theatre Acting graduate from the University of British Columbia. She loves to paint, draw, sing, dance, write, and stay up until 3am watching competitive reality TV. She feels inexplicably lucky to work with such a great team in this punny play about what love can mean, which gives us a chance to laugh at and question ourselves as humans. Drew is interested in collaborative, devised work that involves audiences a dialogue about issues we face as a collective and as individuals; contemplating the effects of increasingly smart technology (and capitalism, systematic violations of human rights, and impending climate collapse) is way more fun when we do it together!! 

Samuel Jing – Stage Manager

Sam is an emerging director looking to make a name for himself in the mean streets of Vancouver. Having grown up in Hong Kong, Sam translates his multi-cultural experience into the artistic work that he does. When he isn’t dancing along to the Hamilton soundtrack for the hundredth time, you can find him editing his Youtube videos in some quaint cafe. Sam is also the grateful recipient of the Yvonne Firkins Prize and the Jerry Wasserman Scholarship. Recent credits include: The Medicine Hat Playwrights Festival (The Cultch IGNITE! Festival), Crunchy: A Short Play (Brave New Play Rites), Louis and Dave (UBC Players Club), Doubt: A Parable (UBC Players Club).

Bronwen Marsden – Director

Bronwen Marsden graduated from Montreal’s Concordia University with a BFA in Theatre and Film Production in 2008. An avid theatre-maker since she roped her Grade 3 classmates into creating an original, site-specific piece in her mother’s rock garden, she has since gone on to work in many aspects of theatre production, from writing to acting to dramaturgy to directing to stage managing to producing. Credits include As You Like It, The Two Aparts, The Tragical Comedy of Professor Punchinello, Three Sisters in Langley, and Spec Theatre’s own Hipstory. She’s absolutely delighted to be working on this wacky little comedy with a whole lotta heart.


Ruby Arnold – Visual Design

Ruby is a multidisciplinary artist and maker of things living on the West Coast of Canada. Her interest in technology brings a variety of new media elements together in her work including computer programming, lighting, digital illustration and image manipulation. Nothing is out of bounds, the art that Ruby makes is a result of an untiring interest in the world around us. See her work at rubymakesthings.com

ira cooper – Producer/Playwright

I have been involved in theatre for a wee bit of time now, producing, collaborating and acting wherever I can/want to. At one point, I received a piece of paper from UBC saying I was a certified actor. At another point I acted in Nelson, BC, then China, then screened a film about zombies in Fort McMurray. My most favourite things in recent memory that I has done include writing and producing Sid: The Handsome Bum (Victoria Fringe Festival) and making this current show with an incredibly talented and risk taking cast and an equally as courageous, nutty and creative “behind the scenes” crew. I am eternally indebted to those willing/crazy enough to collaborate with me. Got an idea? Let’s make something with magic.


4.5/5 stars – Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Fringe Festival 2019

You could hire a millennial who repeatedly shows up late because he was busy oiling his beard.

Or, you could staff your organic, plant-based, ethically sourced samosa restaurant with Barry, a certifiably hip automaton who loves wearing uniforms. She has a remarkably long battery life and workers’ rights don’t apply to machines.

Despite her engineer’s best attempts at programming perfection that influencers and entrepreneurs can depend upon, Barry has glitches. Sometimes she repeats herself. Sometimes she has ethical crises.

There’s plenty of ideas to unpack in this hour-long social commentary penned by Ira Cooper and produced by Spec Theatre of Vancouver. First, it mocks the generation that’s perpetually seeking to consume whatever happens to be trendy this week (then post about it on Instagram). It highlights the seemingly insatiable and fickle market for anything that seems exclusive and how tapping into demand becomes a temporary licence to print money. Are humans just sheep with Paypal accounts?

Like many have before, Cooper questions the limits of artificial intelligence and the origin of self-consciousness. The play also queries the agency of an artificial intelligence creator. Is Barry’s creator, Jane, her parent, a technician, her boss or something else?

Philosophy lesson aside, see Artisanal Intelligence for Drew Carlson’s masterful performance as Barry — a role that requires perpetual micro movements and unnatural speech patterns, as well as an incredible amount of memorization. This dense script is heavy with unusually specific strings of words (including a few Edmonton references for crowd appeal) that cannot be easy to spit out on command in a semi-robotic manner.

Plus, they sing three funny songs, including one where they harmonize with a coffee grinder. A coffee grinder.

— Janet French

Find the original review here.

Island Fringe Festival 2019

My favourite show of the festival was all of that stuff [Referring to the previously mentioned show] , plus whip-smart, charming and riotously funny besides. I’m talking about Artisanal Intelligence, the story of a girl and her robot, written by Ira Cooper, directed by Bronwen Marsden and produced by Spec Theatre of Vancouver, BC.

The sheer imaginative weirdness of the concept is pretty great: Jane (played by Hannah Everett) of Artisanal Intelligence, Inc. has invented the robotic hipster customer service agent Barry (played by Drew Carlson), programmed to serve niche businesses with her ever-expanding knowledge of specialized topics ranging from the coffee sciences to bicycle mechanics to obscure arts and culture references.

The play has Jane making a sales pitch to potential buyers (the audience). One could build a fun play entirely out of showcasing Barry’s ridiculously arcane trivia database, her superhuman barista proficiency and her many other esoteric skills, and we do get all that, and it’s a hoot; but Cooper’s script also mocks and celebrates hipster culture, explores artificial intelligence, and raises uneasy questions regarding the nature of life and free will. This segues into oddly touching emotional drama, forbidden romance and even a sci-fi battle for the fate of humanity, and it’s all resolved through the power of love and a musical number.

Everett is excellent as Jane, but the cybernetic superstar of the show is Carlson’s inhumanly cheerful Barry, whose stiffly jerky movements and stilted singsong voice make her seem like the adorable love child of an old-school Disney animatronic character and Amazon’s Alexa, though she gradually evolves into something else altogether. Carlson’s surreally bravura performance helps make Artisanal Intelligence not just my Fringe fave of 2019, but one of my favourite Fringe plays of all time.

Sean McQuaid

Find the original review here.